NBA Draft Combine starts Wednesday in Chicago… but what does that mean?

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When the NFL Draft Combine takes place each year in Indianapolis, it is an event. Players’ 40 times are dissected, their performances analyzed, and guys move up or down in the draft based on the results. It’s a big deal.

The NBA holds its own Draft Combine — starting Wednesday in Chicago — where 60 guys hoping to get drafted run sprints, are timed through drills, and…

It’s not that big a deal.

Parts of it matter, but not the parts broadcast on television, not the drills that the players run through. Let’s say, hypothetically, that Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis goes out on Wednesday and surprises people with his vertical leap. It’s not going to impact his draft status much at all — teams have already scouted him in person and on tape, they already know his game.

“It can help, though like a lot of the other information, it’s just another piece of the puzzle,” PBT’s draft expert Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld tells us. “It can also work the other way. Results that can be construed negatively will be gathered and used as well when fully evaluating.But the bump or drop will never be significant.”

Look at it this way: It’s a famous story that Kevin Durant could not bench press 185 pounds even once at the combine. That really has held back his ability to play the game, I mean, what team would want him on their roster? (Yes, that was sarcastic.)

Just like at the NFL combine, the biggest names skip the NBA event — Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, very possibly the top three in the draft this year, are all skipping the combine. Is that a smart move?

“I hate to say it, but yes,” Isaacson said. “Ideally, the top 60 guys would take part and go through the same process. But there really is no incentive for agents to allow players who are certain to be Top 5 guys to take part. One of the agent’s primary jobs is to control the flow of information about their client. Taking part in the combine takes it out of their hands, and they know they are unlikely to be penalized by any team for not taking part. The only way this could change is if it starts to backfire on players, but I don’t see that happening.”

There are two things that can dramatically impact draft status at the combine: The medical evaluation and the interviews with teams.

With the medical, this is the time NBA doctors give a thorough physical to every player, running every conceivable test. Pick up a red flag here and you will fall.

For a recent example, there is Jared Sullinger. The Ohio State power forward had a back issue that raised a red flag and he fell from a potential Top 5 pick in 2012 all the way down to Boston at No. 21. Those doctors were right — Sullinger required back surgery that forced him to miss much of his rookie year. Nobody quite knew if he would bounce all the way back from that, because backs can be tricky. So far, so good, he played in 74 games last season (starting 44) and put up 13.1 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. But there were legitimate questions. Same with DeJuan Blair and the fact he doesn’t have ACLs, which was found out at the Combine.

The other thing that matters is the interviews. This is the first chance teams really get to talk to players and they do that, plus they can throw IQ or personality tests at the players. Plus some odd questions.

“The interviews are probably the most important thing that will happen at the combine,” Isaacson told PBT. “It will be the player’s first chance to make an impression on decision makers away from the court. I know many long-time NBA personnel who have said they know in the first few minutes whether a guy would be right for their organization. The type of interview, as well as the level of impression, will vary from team to team, but making a strong impression can really fast-track the process for guys with certain clubs.”

The interview is where a GM leaves the room and says, “I’m in love with Player X. We have to get him.”

That said, what matters more to teams is the individual workouts — teams invite players they are interested in to come work out at the team’s facilities.

“I’d say the team workouts are more important in the decision process, mainly because the teams can tailor it to see specific things they are looking for from guys,” Isaacson said. “Also, the team workouts at least allow some level of actual playing, even if it is just 2-on-2 or 3-on-3, and team can form the invitee groups in such a way that the player(s) they are interested in have a certain kind of player to work out against. “

NBA TV will be all over the combine, broadcasting live. It’s entertaining. For us basketball junkies it is good theater.

Just understand what you’re seeing on the screen is not going to move a guy up or down the draft board all that much.

Sixers’ Ben Simmons fully cleared to play basketball

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Finally, some good news on the health front for Philadelphia.

Ben Simmons, the No. 1 pick a year ago, has been fully cleared for basketball activities about a month before training camp opens, reports Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times.

Simmons was healthy enough to dominate a random pickup game in Australia against a bunch of 5’10” guys this week. We’re desperate enough for good signs that we will take that as one.

Also, Markelle Fultz is expected to be fully healthy for training camp after his ankle sprain.

So much for the good news. There is no updates on the status of Joel Embiid, which is concerning only in that all health news about Embiid feels concerning.

The source said center Joel Embiid hasn’t been cleared for fullcourt scrimmaging “as of yet.” Embiid, who is from Cameroon, worked with children as part of the NBA Africa Game earlier this month, but didn’t play in the Aug. 5 game.

For the sake of the game, we need the Sixers healthy this season and starting to show us how a team with so much promise and potential starts to pay off. Please let us see it. The Basketball Gods need to smile more fortune and the feet and ankles of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Report: Cavaliers called Warriors about Kyrie Irving-Klay Thompson trade

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The Warriors rejected a Klay ThompsonPaul George trade offer from the Pacers.

What about Thompson for Kyrie Irving, who’s younger than George and locked up for an additional season (the same amount of time as Thompson for a similar price)?

Apparently, Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman inquired before sending Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

It would be hard to believe that Altman could have landed a better trade than the Boston one. He did call the uninterested Warriors about Klay Thompson, a source said.

I’m not sure what this trade would’ve accomplished for either team.

The Warriors obviously already have a point guard in Stephen Curry. Though Irving isn’t the best distributor, his handles and defense push him to point guard. Curry and Irving would have been a tough fit together. Golden State knows Curry and Thompson are a championship-caliber pairing.

Thompson would have been a big upgrade at shooting guard in Cleveland, but the Cavs would have been woefully undermanned at point guard. Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon and Kay Felder wouldn’t cut it. At least the Cavaliers have decent options at shooting guard with J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Kyle Korver.

The Warriors would’ve never said yes, which is fortunate for the Cavs. They did better in their trade with Boston, anyway. Thomas can step in at point guard while Crowder still provides much-needed wing depth – plus Zizic and that sweet, sweet Nets pick.

After Kyrie Irving trade, here are five biggest threats to Warriors

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Let’s be honest: The blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade to the Boston Celtics likely means the NBA Finals goes five games instead of four.

The Golden State Warriors can be that good. They won 67 games last season with the NBA’s top offense and second-ranked defense, now they have been in the system for a year as a unit, know each other better, and made some good offseason additions. The Warriors will be better. And they still have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson. The Warriors are the clear favorites to repeat as NBA champions.

But life rarely follows the script. So who are the biggest threats to the Warriors? Here are the top five.

1) The Houston Rockets. Houston won 55 games last season with the NBA’s second-ranked offense and a style of play that can hang with the Warriors — then they added Chris Paul to the mix. Plus GM Daryl Morey added quality veteran wing defenders such as P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute, guys picked up in part to match up with the Warriors firepower. On paper, Houston is the NBA’s second best team and the one best poised to challenge the Warriors. It’s fair to wonder if Chris Paul and James Harden can share the backcourt and the ball — and if they can find a tempo that works for them — but coach Mike D’Antoni isn’t worried. It’s also fair to question if this team can be good enough defensively, even though they added good defenders. Still, the Rockets are a threat and a contender.

2) The Cleveland Cavaliers. The reason they are here is not the trade, it’s LeBron James. He remains the best player on the planet (although Durant is close). But the trade helps. In terms of pure offensive production, Isaiah Thomas matched or even bested Irving last season, IT is an All-NBA player for a reason. Also, the Cavaliers pick up the kind of “3&D” wing they have desperately needed in Jae Crowder. And if another player they really want/need comes available, they have assets in Ante Zizic and that Brooklyn first round pick to get him. Cleveland gets this spot because they are the clear favorite to win the East again, and if they are back in the Finals they have a shot despite an aging roster. The Cavs have beaten the Warriors in the Finals before.

3) The Boston Celtics. Admittedly, there is a bit of a drop off after those first two. I see Boston as more of a threat in two seasons (2018-19) and beyond, but after this trade they have quality players at key positions — Irving at the point, Gordon Hayward on the wing, and Al Horford in the paint. Boston also has one of the best coaches in the league in Brad Stevens, who will put Irving in better situations (so long as Irving buys in and doesn’t just force isolation action, as he did at times in Cleveland). What Boston needs is guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to develop, and Marcus Smart to step up, to become real contenders. They also need to show they can defend, they traded away some of their best defenders this summer. That and a stronger defensive presence in the paint. All that said, Boston has a legitimate shot to beat Cleveland and come out of the East, and if they reach the Finals, then the Celtics at least have a puncher’s chance against the Warriors.

4) The San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs won 55 games last season, had the best defense in the NBA, and with Kawhi Leonard they have their own superstar. The Spurs are going to execute and make plays. They will miss the depth that Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons brought, but they added the scoring punch of Rudy Gay off the bench. What we know is the Spurs will not beat themselves, that they will be in the hunt, and we should know by now not to sleep on them.

5) The Oklahoma City Thunder. I think this is a dark horse contender. What we know is that the Thunder should be a top five defensive team — they were 10th in the NBA last season, they brought back their core guys (Andre Roberson and Steven Adams are key here), and they added an excellent wing defender to the mix in Paul George. The Thunder will get stops. If George and Russell Westbrook can figure out how to play well together on the offensive end — last season the Thunder were middle of the pack offensively with the Westbrook show — and get in the top 10, they become a team that could surprise some people.

Thon Maker, all 7’1″ of him, sat in economy class to get flight going

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If you are six-foot or taller, economy class on a modern airline feels cramped. But at least the airlines make up for it with a delicious full meal a bag of peanuts and a free movie.

Can you imagine a 7’1″ guy in economy?

The Bucks’ Thon Maker did it on a recent United flight and the passenger next to him Paul Kuzma posted about it on Facebook (hat tip to onmilwaukee.com).

Well, a missed #United flight found me on a rebooked one. After ending up in an upgraded Economy Plus (yay!) middle seat (not so yay!), volunteers were asked one by one, row by row, if one would relocate to the last row of the plane, middle seat….

My heart leapt again when I came to the last row and BOTH the middle AND aisle seats were open! I stowed my gear in the middle seat area but sat in the aisle seat, hoping.

Alas, it was too good to be true! Moments later, a 7’1″ tall young man who could not even stand completely straight in the aisle of the plane made his way our direction. My heart sunk, not for me, but for him! I saw him emerge from an Economy Plus window seat!

I told him I was so sorry, knowing this would be uncomfortable for him. He nonchalantly said it was worth it to get this delayed flight going. He had practice to attend in the morning and had a 2+ hour drive to get where he was headed after landing….

I had to ask how in the world he ended up in the last row. He also had missed a flight and was rebooked on this one. He was assigned his original FIRST CLASS seat. He had settled in there when a flight attendant told him the person who had paid for that seat on THIS flight had shown up, albeit very late. They had to move him to Economy Plus.

Once there for a while, his story mirrors mine. Requests were being made for someone to move to the last row and no one was volunteering. So he volunteered, wanting the flight to begin.

He couldn’t even fit his knees into the Economy seat! Every time the snack cart came by or someone had to use the restroom, he had to get up and move out of their way.

The entire flight, there was not a hint of resentment in his voice. He was even happy to allow me a picture with him and an autograph. Class act, Thon!

Somewhere a cranky old NBA player is saying “we always used to have to fly commercial…” and sorry old man, but that doesn’t make it easy or right. There’s a reason NBA teams moved away from that (and it wasn’t to save money).

Good on Maker for being willing to sacrifice when plenty of other normal-sized people couldn’t be bothered.

And if the name Kuzma is familiar, the author says his is the second cousin once removed of the Lakers’ rookie Kyle Kuzma.